News from the week of October 25, 2006
Wellness Center is a go
By Seth Schmidt
A Tracy wellness center is no longer a mere possibility. Its a construction project.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the 7,200 square-foot facility was observed Monday afternoon. Heavy equipment is expected to be on site to prepare footings soon. Completion of the $500,000 building is targeted for mid-March of 2007.
This is a great day, said Claire Hannasch, chairman of the Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center Board. A lot of time and effort has gone into this.
RWS Joint Ventures of Sanborn is the project developer and will own the building. SVTMC will move its therapy center to the new building and lease space from RWS. The two parties will operate a community wellness center at the site.
The wellness center will be built southeast of the Tracy hospital, facing Fifth Street East. The site is directly south of the Prairie View Healthcare Center.
Hannasch complimented Ron and Warren Gramstad, partners in RWS; and Rick Nordahl, SVTMC chief executive officer; for their perseverance in working out the wellness center agreement. The new center, he said, will be good for both the community and the hospital.
There are a lot of people who have been supporting this and who are looking forward to it, Hannasch said.
SVTMC and RWS Joint Ventures signed a ten-year wellness center lease last week, with options for two, five-year renewals.
Nordahl said that the new facility would be an excellent enhancement for the hospitals therapy department. Tracy area people who are now driving to wellness facilities out-of-town, will now have the convenience of being able to do rehab and fitness workouts locally, he said. The new wellness center will have a goal of 480 members, Nordahl indicated.
Nordahl thanked the Tracy Area Medical Foundation, for agreeing to buy the equipment for the wellness center.
This is a huge benefit for our community, said Robert Gervais, Tracy community development director. The wellness center will be another piece of the puzzle in the goal of attracting more people to live and work in Tracy.
Gervais noted that the Gramstads and the EDA had worked out a tentative deal for the purchase of the wellness center site in the summer of 2005. Contrary to what some people might think, projects like this dont happen overnight.
Gramstad expressed satisfaction that an agreement had been worked out. Construction will begin within a week or two, he said, and added that he would be working with several local contractors on the project.
In June, the City of Tracy approved a 10-year tax abatement for the wellness center. Under the tax abatement agreement, the City of Tracy will return the citys portion of wellness center property taxes for a 10-year period. The improved property has an estimated annual property tax capacity of about $20,000; the citys tax portion is about $14,000.
The Tracy City Council granted the abatement request after determining that without the abatement, the wellness center would not be financially feasible and would not be built. The abatement ends after 10 years.
RWS Joint Ventures paid the city $5,000 for the 300x250 foot parcel of Eastview Addition land for the site.
The wellness center will have an entrance from Fifth Street East and off-street parking. The center is to have state -of-the-art fitness equipment. SVTMC therapy staff will see patients during regular business hours, and serve as a resource for people using the wellness center. Members will have access to the center 24 hours a day through an electronic card system.
It is anticipated that hospital space now used by the therapy department will be utilized for other medical outreach services.
New drainage plan might save money
By Seth Schmidt
Engineers may have discovered a less expensive way to improve drainage in South Tracy.
The plan involves the creation of a water retention pond in the southwest corner of what is commonly referred to as the Central Livestock property. The plan, with related storm sewer improvements, has an estimated construction cost of just over $250,000. A 10% contingency fund increases the estimate to $277,976 without land acquisition costs.
Colin Jorgenson, an engineer for SEH Engineers, presented the plan to Tracy city council members Monday. He also presented three more expensive drainage plans with construction estimates of $377,000 to $721,000. The most costly option would install a new storm sewer, with pipe as large as 66 in diameter, along South Fourth St., north to an open drainage ditch along the railroad tracks. The two other plans call for an open drainage ditch from near the intersection of Front and South Fourth streets, northeast across the Central Livestock property to County Ditch 23. The latter two options would require the purchase of the Central Livestock land, an expense not included in the construction estimates.
Council members took steps to implement the retention pond plan. They accepted the engineers report, and set a Nov. 27 public hearing to consider the plan. City staff members are to compile a proposed assessment roll for benefiting property owners. It has been the citys past policy, to assess benefiting property owners for 50% of drainage improvement costs, with the other 50% paid for by city taxpayers at large.
Council members indicated that if possible, theyd like the drainage improvement in place next year.
We all know that we have to do something, said Mayor Steve Ferrazzano. He said that the least expensive option represents work that would also be needed if one of the more expensive plans were pursued. The city can pursue further improvements at a future date, he said, if it is found the retention pond doesnt improve drainage enough.
Jorgenson explained that the retention pond would be dry most of the time. But in the event of a sudden, heavy run-off of water, the pond would act as a temporary holding pond. The ponds water would slowly drain into a storm sewer along Front St., and eventually into an open ditch-heading northeast of Tracy, the engineer said.
The retention pond plan also includes storm sewer improvements along Spring and South Fourth streets, designed to drain excess water from the high school property and the Greenwood Addition, Jorgenson said.
Public Works Director Rick Robinson said that retention ponds are becoming more popular because its cheaper to move dirt than it is to lay pipes. He said that past history suggests that South Tracy will experience a severe flooding problem about once every five years.
Council member Jan Arvizu said that flooding occurs when a large quantity of rain falls within a short period of time, and the ground is already saturated with moisture.
Arvizu wondered if the proposed reconstruction of Highline Road next year could have a drainage ditch on its west side in order to take some of the water coming into the city from the south and west, north toward existing county ditches.
Jeff Farber, owner of Greenwood Nursery, told council members that the retention pond plan made the most sense of any South Tracy drainage plan to date, from both a standpoint of cost and effectiveness.
Councilman Russ Stobb noted that the citys proposed drainage improvement will require the purchase of the Central Livestock property.
Robinson said that discussions have been held with the landowner, and that the appraised value of the land was more than $100,000.
Koopman said that the citys approach to the land negotiations should be handled in a closed session. Money to buy the land, she said, would likely need to come from borrowing money through the sale of a city-backed bond.
Tracy City Government has been studying options for improving South Tracy drainage since heavy rains on Memorial Day weekend in 2004 caused widespread flooding. Consideration has been given to building an open drainage ditch across the Central Livestock property. The open drainage ditch plan was delayed after the discovery that part of the proposed ditch would have to cross an area with possible environmental contaminants.
Jake Swenhaugen benefit is planned on Saturday
03 Tracy grad recovering fromcycle accident
Friends and family members of Jake Swenhaugen hope to see a whopper of a crowd at the Tracy Veterans Memorial Center Saturday.
A Whopper burger benefit is planned for the Tracy man from 4 to 8 p.m. Proceeds will go to defray expenses incurred by the Swenhaugen family in the aftermath of a July 15 motorcycle accident near Currie. Thrivent Financial Services is offering a matching grant.
The menu will include a Whopper served by Burger King, chips, pop, bars and cookies. There is no charge, but donations will be accepted. Take-out orders can be made in advance by calling April Lichty (507-626-0241) or Alicia Carter (507-327-3880).
A raffle, with prizes donated by area businesses, is also planned. The City of Tracy has waived its normal rental fee for the event. Lichty and Lisa Brummer are organizing Saturdays benefit, with help from friends and family members.
Life changed suddenly for Jake Swenhaugen, 21, early on July 15. He and a friend, Ryan Grunden, were driving on Hwy. 30 near Currie when their Harley Davidson motorcycles crashed. Neither remembers the accident. But both sustained serious injuries. Grunden was hospitalized for almost five weeks; Swenhaugen for five days. Both are still recovering from their injuries.
Jake goes back to see a doctor on Nov. 6. They are talking about another surgery, said Alicia Carter, Swenhaugens girlfriend. She explained that Jakes broken left leg is not healing properly, and doctors may have to use a bone graft from his hip to help mend the fracture.
He cant put any pressure on his leg, Carter said. Crutches are needed for walking. Prior to the accident, Swenhaugen drove truck for Scotts Liquid Handling, Swens Fuel, and at his parents farm. Since the accident, Carter said, Jake has been unable to work.
Swenhaugen had health insurance at the time of the accident, Carter said, but coverage was capped at $10,000. Medical expenses have far exceeded that amount.
I stopped counting (the medical bills) when it hit $77,000, Carter said.
Besides a broken left leg, Swenhaugen also sustained a broken jaw, a broken cheek, a fracture hand, and numerous cuts and abrasions. More than 50 stitches were needed to close his wounds, Carter said, and plates were inserted into his jaw and face. Except for the fractured leg, the injuries are healing well, Carter said.
Jake, a 2003 Tracy Area High School graduate, is son of David and Cindy Swenhaugen, owners of Swens Fuel in Tracy. David is a Cenex-Harvest States employee, and Cindy manages OBrien Court. Jake has three older brothers (Joe, Josh, and Justin). His younger brother, John, is a TAHS sophomore.
Drug-sniffing canines to make sweeps at high school
By Valerie Scherbart Quist
Last week the District 417 board of education approved the use of Interquest Detection Canines of Minnesota at Tracy Area High School.
The Interquest service involves bringing drug-sniffing dogs into the school. The dogs would also make a sweep of the parking lot.
Superintendent Dave Marlette told the board he felt it would be good to use this service once or twice a year. Unlike other drug-sniffing dog services, the Interquest Detection Canines of Minnesota would put on an assembly for students to tell them about the program.
High school Principal Chad Anderson also said he thought using the service was a good idea. He said the idea behind using the service is not so much to catch students doing something wrong, but rather to serve as a preventative measure. He said it is hoped that if students are aware the service will be used, it will keep them from bringing drugs, weapons, and other dangerous items into the school building.
Deb Miller, representing the Fine Arts Council of Tracy, told the board that Tracy is being featured in a report by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. Tracy was chosen to be a part of a study done by the council, and because of its healthy arts scene, Tracy is featured prominently in the report.
A section of the report includes a story about the proposed arts and athletics addition to Tracy Area High School.
The report will be distributed nationally.
Parent-teacher conferences are underway this week at Tracy Elementary. Conferences took place Monday and will continue on Thursday.
Conferences at TAHS are planned on Thursday, Nov. 9 and Tuesday, Nov. 14 from 4:30-8 p.m.
The National Honor Society Banquet is planned for Monday, Oct. 30 at Shetek Bend.
American Education Week
The American Education Week banquet will be held on Thursday, Nov. 16 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Shetek Bend.
Tracy Elementary Principal Scott Loeslie told the board that he believes it is time to consider financing and fund-raising for new playground equipment. The current playground equipment is wood and the pea-rock underneath the equipment isnt the safest, Loeslie said.
Loeslie told the board that the Parent-Teacher Committee would be willing to do fund-raising work. New playground equipment is expected to cost around $30,000.
The board approved the following winter coaching assignments:
Head coachBrian Michelson
B-squad coachKarl Campbell
Volunteer coachesJeremy Trulock, Travis Christenson, Chris Schmidt, Mike Coyle
Head coachNat Boyer
B-squad coachBob Ladehoff
C-squad coachMark Templeton
Eighth-grade coachRick Haberman
Seventh-grade coachDave Rialson
Volunteer coachesNeil Dolan, Bob Dolan, Dru Larson, Erik Frisvold
Head coachRyan Kruse
B-squad coachGale Otto
C-squad coachLandon Erickson
Eight-grade coachEric Trygstad
Seventh-grade coachAshlei Carpenter
Volunteer coachesJeff Carpenter, Victor Vondracek
Co-head coachesLynn Carlson and Vicki Hayes
JV coachJodi Johnson
Head coachEve Becker
Director: Susan Kluge
Head coachTamara Purrington
Assistant coachRob Purrington
Assistant coachSuanne Christiansen
JH & SH coachAmy Anderson
The board approved lane changes for the 2006-2007 school year for Nicole Hedrick, Suanne Christiansen, Nat Boyer, Jim Culhane, Derek Flann, Nichole Paulzine, Sue Meyer, and Kristy Peterson. Total cost for the lane changes is $2,676.75.
In other business:
The board approved the Minnesota Department of Education Assurance of Compliance with state and federal law prohibiting discrimination.
The board approved the resignation of Sheryl Woelber as girls basketball assistant coach.
The board approved a motion to approve the E-rate Consulting Services Contract between District 417 and Dakota Academic Consulting for the 2007 fiscal year.
Tracy council candidates express viewpoints
Three, four-year terms on the Tracy City Council, and a four-year term as mayor will be decided in the Nov. 7 general election.
Incumbent mayor Steve Ferrazzano is being challenged by Sandi Rettmer and Marv Van Acker. Incumbents Jan Arvizu and Russ Stobb, and challengers Tony Peterson, Mike Martin, and Lary Parker have filed for the council positions. The candidates responded to written questions submitted by the Headlight-Herald.
Describe your leadership style. How will your leadership be an asset to Tracy city government and Tracy citizens?
Steve Ferrazzano My leadership style is to listen to all sides of an issue, seek input from others, and then make a decisive decision once all the information is gathered. My leadership style would be an asset to city government and Tracy citizens because my style has proven to be effective over my past four years as Mayor. During my time as Mayor, we as a council have had to deal with some difficult issues. I believe the way I chair meetings has aided the council as a whole to remain on point in discussions and to make decisions in a timely fashion.
Sandi RettmerMy leadership style is one of getting right to the point. Those that are elected to the City Council should be expected to do their homework on issues that are coming before the council and be prepared to share their opinions at those meetings. Currently, when questions are asked, the silence (no response) is deafening. I believe that all council members should be prepared to offer their opinions on matters before the council so that a consensus can be arrived at which would be in the best interests of the citizens of Tracy. Council members need to ask questions!
Marv VanAckerMy leadership style is hands on.
Jan Arvizu I believe that I speak assertively on issues and bring out discussion, yet always treat fellow council members, staff and constituents respectfully. I try to think of creative solutions, practice fairness and serve as a watchdog.
Michael Martin First of all, I speak the truth, no matter who I tick off, no matter how much I have to lose. Dont ask me a question if you dont want to know the answer. Call me at 629-4757 or email me at Mikemartin@iw.net <mailto:Mikemartin@iw.net> if you want to ask.
In Meyers/Briggs terms, I change between an ENTJ and an ENTP. I believe in consultative leadership, and I tend to ask a lot of questions from a lot of people. I am optimistic. I have about 5 ideas a day, and many are good, but some are bad. I rely on my judgment to sort them out. I form my ideas on dreams, data, and respected opinions, and I rest on solid principles.
Lary Parker My leadership style is making business decisions without personal feelings getting in the way. I believe that there needs to be good discussion of an issue both pros and cons so the right decision is made. I believe that when an issue arises that is not a patch fix but a resolve that takes care of the issue now and not to be further problem in the future costing tax payers more money. I bring to Tracy the experience of 2 terms on the Pierce County Council in Tacoma Washington while my first cousin was Mayor. The scale of issues there that we handled are the same only on a larger scale ($11.6 million). I feel this experience and my compassion for Tracy to be and stay successful that I would be an asset to the council.
Tony Peterson In a single word persistent. I look at most problems as opportunities and challenges. I am also a realist, you have to work with what you have and not expect the county, state or magical grants to make the problem easier or to have them solve the problem. I accept the possibility that I will probably stand alone on some issues, but I will not compromise my belief that government is to support the community, not the community supporting the government. I will work tirelessly to ensure that every dollar spent by the city brings the taxpayer the most benefit for that dollar.
Russ Stobb A member of the City Council must realize that as an individual they have no power and no authority. Only the City Council has this. The Council is ultimately responsible for all decisions but the Council must act as one body. It is a mistake when individual members of the Council try to micromanage the business of the City. We need to employ the most qualified responsible personnel and then give them the freedom to do their jobs. The City Council should provide guidance and resources needed but also must hold its personnel responsible for their jobs and the performance of those jobs.
As a member of the City Council I have felt that it is my obligation to stay informed on all issues and to be aware of what is happening in Tracy. During the decision making process I feel that it is my duty to present possible options or alternatives as we attempt to use information available and the best logic possible to reach the appropriate decisions for Tracy.
What are Tracys most important community assets? What does Tracy need to improve upon?
FerrazzanoTracys most important community assets are the citizens of our town. This asset is often overlooked, but one that I dont feel many towns our size have. We, as a community, care for one another and support each other during difficult times. There are also a number of people in the town, city employees included, who have dedicated many hours working toward making Tracy a better place to live and work, not only now, but ten to twenty years from now. The other important assets of our community are our hospital, the public schools and our aquatic center. Now, I know the pool was closed for two long frustrating seasons, but now that it is re-opened, there is no denying that it is a quality facility and an asset to our town. What we need to improve on as a city government is to first, find ways to help local businesses remain open and second, aggressively pursue leads on businesses that may want to open up shop in town. Creating and keeping jobs are the two areas we as a city need to work on.
Rettmer I believe our most important assets are our excellent fire protection, our police protection, good school systems, our parks and playgrounds, the Aquatic Center, our soon-to-be Wellness Center, a quality museum, and an energetic Chamber of Commerce. These are the qualities that people look for when they are looking for a place to live and raise a family.
I think we need to improve our community attitude. We need to take pride in our property and support our local businesses and city leaders. As a united team, we could do wonders.
Van AckerTracys most important asset is its schools. Tracy needs to improve on keeping taxes down.
Arvizu I believe our most important assets are our people - all ages with diversity. We have also developed many wonderful facilities - our hospital, school, aquatic center, airport and Veterans Center. We can always improve on street maintenance and upkeep of buildings.
Martin I apologize to anyone I forget to mention. Tracy is a great city. We have great businesses, great people, and we have a nice place to live. I have lived here since the late 80s, and I love it. Im sure Ill miss someone, and Im sorry for that, but Im only human. In terms of raw strategic physical infrastructure, we have a highway, our schools, a railroad center, a hospital/clinic and an airport. We also have a pool, a newspaper, a grain elevator, a manufactured home facility, a cement plant, a farm implement dealership, a farm supply store, a hardware store/lumberyard, two nursing homes, a computer store, a banquet facility, two greenhouses, a dance academy, and many other fine retail establishments.
The greatest community asset we have, of course, is our children. Minnesota always scores at or near the highest in SAT scores and other tests. The larger cities in Minnesota, South Dakota, and the rest of the US depend and benefit from the care and loving we give our kids. They are definitely our greatest asset. Its too bad we cant harness and nurture more of them after high school and college. We definitely have room for improvement
What does Tracy most need to improve upon? Tracy has always been kind of inward looking. In the far past, decisions were made because of that inward looking perspective. Those decisions still hurt us to this day. We are changing things now, but I think the more we think towards our future, the better we will be. The planning meetings slated for November are a very positive indication. We need good business to move in so that more of our kids can stay here, and we need great reasons for more people who work elsewhere to move here. Sometimes I hear about people who are picked on by the city. I dont know if that is true, but I will watch for it. While I think we have high standards, I also think that this city should be an expansive, flexible place, where many can contribute and prosper.
Parker I believe the good people are the most important asset to Tracy. I also believe Tracy has a lot to offer anyone looking for small town life in the Mid-West as a move to or place a business in. Tracy has one of the best schools in the region and a great hospital, churches of all faith and I feel that all that needs to be protected for the future of our children and grandchildren. Tracy has a growing business district which offers a lot to anyone thinking of coming to Tracy.
I believe that everyone needs to work on keeping our schools and hospital strong and viable. I also feel that Tracy needs more housing in the multiple dwelling areas. There is a need for a good apartment complex. There are some costly needs of the city that looms on the horizon that will be coming up which will have to be addressed. Example: The water treatment leaking ponds. I believe that a proper business decision will be made in the best interests for the people of Tracy to correct the situation.
Peterson Tracys greatest asset is its citizens; some would argue that the schools, pool, or other services are the greatest asset. With out the citizens of Tracy, there would be no Tracy. We, as a community need to attract more people. This can be done by keeping taxes low, offering a business friendly environment, and properly maintaining the city infrastructure.
Stobb As a community we have many assets to benefit our citizens and that we can use to promote our city. Those that come to my mind first would include our clinic and hospital, a diverse retail and service community that is still able to offer most of what our residents need, Sebastian Park with the Aquatic Center and other recreational facilities, our school system, a dedicated fire department that is second to none, a well trained ambulance service, and of course our residents.
Areas that we need to improve include additional housing options for current and prospective residents and our water/sewer/stormwater infrastructure.
What priorities would you have as a council member or mayor?
Ferrazzano My first priority as mayor, as I indicated in my previous answer, would be to work with the EDA, Chamber and other local businesses to keep and create jobs for the town. We all need to work together on this issue as there is no simple solution. The other priorities I would have are to continue to work on the flooding problem on South 4th St., fixing the problem we are experiencing with our waste water lagoons and to improve the existing buildings the city currently owns like the Veterans Memorial Center.
Rettmer I believe that, first and foremost, we need to work hard and search diligently for ways to maintain the quality of City services that we now provide, be it through grants, federal and state funding and low interest loans. I would like to hope that we can keep any increase in our tax levy to a minimum, without jeopardizing any of the services.
This is a difficult struggle for our leaders because Tracy is an old townwe have old buildings, old sewer and water pipes and streets that are need of repair.
Van Acker Jobs
Arvizu I am pleased that the council will be working on the big picture of what needs to be done and developing a game plan to get there. We will be setting priorities and getting some first steps in place to lay the groundwork for the future.
Martin I believe that Tracy has a bright future, and I want us facing it with open eyes. We need to bring industries to town, and in my greatest daydreams, they would be industries that take advantage of the coming green revolution. Maybe Suzlon and its wind mill manufacturing operations will want to invest here, or maybe we can lure an Iogen Cellulosic Ethanol plant. Bottom line, there are a lot of opportunities, out there, and we need to be searching and open to them. I think the prison that we heard so much about is a pipe dream.
Parker I am not running for the council to resolve a personal issue as some have in the past. I come to the council bringing a good business sense and experience. Since I am not from here originally I can come in with an open business mind and only do what is necessary to control spending and resolve of an issue.
Peterson My first priority as a council member would be to control spending. The simplest way of doing this is to completely define what is needed and support those items. Then, define what is wanted and eliminate those expenses. These types of decisions are neither easy nor popular, but they need to be made. Secondly, I would seek to improve the lighting in the city; this could be done in cooperation with Excel Energy, the local business and local service organizations. It could be as simple as repairing what we have, and it will take more research before a workable solution will be found.
Stobb First of all we must maintain and/or improve what we have. This would include our infrastructure, our streets, our parks, and our business community. Additionally we need to prevent flooding in portions of Tracy due to runoff following storms. We need to be proactive in encouraging residential, retail, and commercial growth. If we are not actively encouraging growth in these areas I believe we will see decline.
Do you have any ideas for developing more jobs and encouraging more people to move to Tracy?
Ferrazzano As I have indicated, there is no simple solution to this issue. This is why we as a council need to work with the EDA, Chamber and local businesses to develop a strategic plan especially in the area of creating and keeping jobs. As for having ideas to encourage more people to move to Tracy, we need to continue events like the Sportsmen Show to give people a reason to come to our town. Because once they get here, they can see for themselves what a wonderful town we have. One thing we all can do is to simply talk to people we meet and say positive things about Tracy. Let people know that we have great shopping opportunities, for example, Lights and Beyond. Let people know that we have good, affordable housing. Word of mouth is a wonderful tool and it is one we all can use.
Rettmer We need to market Tracy as a great place to live. We need our realtors to reach out to a larger market in surrounding cities to promote the sale of the many quality homes that we currently have for sale. We need to encourage developers to develop property (empty lots) that is available. We need to work together as a community to extol the virtues of living in a small town, instead of telling visitors that there is nothing to do here! We also need to search for businesses that would be willing to relocate to a smaller town by advertising in a bigger market place such as Willmar, Mankato and the Twin Cities area.
Van Acker Railroad
Arvizu I am optimistic that coordinated planning and follow through actions on ideas will lay the ground work for future development. Our job is to have the infrastructure and amenities developed which helps attract people. I would like to see some low cost marketing ideas developed.
Martin If I did have specific ideas, Id have come out with them before now. I dont have anything specific, but I do have big goals and an optimistic vision. There are several big opportunities contained in the general trends of our country. There are probably a lot of small trends that translate to big opportunity for the sharp searcher. There are many ways for money to be made. We have to mine the possibilities.
Parker Tracy needs to go after small to medium manufacturing and not go after the large corporations. There are more small to medium companies that are looking to expand or move to. I feel we should take more usage of the JOBZ that is in place before it expires to attract new business. I would sell Tracy as A great place to live and work while promoting all the city has to offer.
Peterson I do not see an easy answer in developing jobs; I know that throwing money at the problem will not fix it. We as a community and government must make Tracy a business friendly community. This is done in two ways, as the local government we must look hard at providing tax breaks for new business and manufacturing opportunities. Not necessarily a free ride if you come to town, but serious considerations in abatements or reductions based on what the business would provide as far as job creation. Secondly and probably the most important, we as citizens must support the local business instead of driving some where else to shop and do business. I will repeat, spending money will not bring business or people to town. Low taxes, local business, schools and security will.
Stobb Our EDA has been very active in seeking new businesses in Tracy and helping existing businesses. They have made many contacts with new businesses. This must all continue. If a business is interested in moving to Tracy, the first thing we should ask them is What can we offer you to make this possible? If this means tax abatement, property, or infrastructure that the City provides, we must consider providing these things for a viable business.
We will probably not get residential growth in Tracy until we have more building lot options available and more diversity in available housing. It would be nice if a developer would come in and do this for us, but that is probably not going to happen. Therefore the city needs to help make it happen.
Are real estate taxes in Tracy too high or are they about right?
Ferrazzano This is a difficult question to answer because no one will ever say that taxes arent too high. No one likes to pay taxes and everyone wishes they were lower so they could keep more of their income. Most families, mine included, are on a fixed income and any increases in taxes affect the family budget. We as a council are keenly aware of the financial situations for most of our citizens and we try to keep the property tax levy as low as possible without seriously affecting needed city services. We as a council are always concerned about our spending and we try to make sure that our property taxes are about right and that they do not unduly burden the citizens of our town.
Rettmer I think in comparison to other towns our size the taxes are about right if we can maintain the status quo.
Van Acker The taxes are about right.
Arvizu I feel the rest estate taxes are fair for the value of services that we provide for our citizens. The council has tried to contain increases as much as possible.
Martin This is a tough one. I called up the Lyon county auditor/treasurer and got information on towns in Lyon county, and per capita, Tracy has the highest tax levy out of Florence, Taunton, Russell, Balaton, Ghent, Garvin, Minneota, Marshall, Lynd, and Cottonwood. Slayton, a town of similar size and amenities, had a lower levy in 2006. Now, the per capita dont take into account corporate donations and city expenditures, but the difference is an eye opener.
There is no doubt we have had higher taxes in 2006. The answer to this is that there was a spike in taxes brought on by a perfect storm of swimming pool reconstruction, and state cuts in local government aid. Nevertheless, even the amount we pay isnt really that much if you talk to people in more populated regions. Its all a matter of perspective.
Any information I have, I got from public data, call me at 629-4757 if you have any questions on how to get the info for yourself.
The numbers are high on the surface, but can be misleading. We have a lot of have to dos coming up, and hopefully we can take care of them economically. When we take care of the treatment ponds, the sewer pipes, and the drainage ditch, we are going to have to make sure we are building for future growth, rather than just patching the past.
Next year should be a lot better in terms of taxes for Tracy. And it looks like the state have more money no matter who is elected governor, because the state has been tracking surpluses in tax collection, ironically.
Nevertheless, we have some big bills we have to pay coming up soon in Tracy. We have a sewer pond that leaks and is too small for future growth, rotting sewer pipes, and probably some other things that no one has even thought about. That is the nature of any city. It breaks down from time to time, and needs to be repaired. Such is life.
Additionally, we always have to keep an eye on the future when we are faced with any expenditures. I think good things are achievable without going crazy. Again, are we just patching the past, or building for the future?
Parker I dont feel that the taxes in Tracy are too high or too low but within the averages for this size town in SW Minnesota.
Peterson I purchased our home in November of 1998, the taxes that year were $248.00, and my property taxes paid this year exceeded $1200.00 and will be $1400.00 next year. That a multiple of five in ten years. City services have not improved by that multiple in the past ten years, so yes; I have to say they are too high. This increase does not include the monthly fees and assessments we all see on our water bill; this increase is also greater than the inflation rate.
Stobb If we ask a resident whether they are paying more in real estate taxes than they would like to pay, Im sure their answer would be YES. However in order to pay less, we would have to give up some of our present services and I do not want to do that. Occasionally we hear someone say that they are paying more taxes on their $75,000 house than someone in Marshall is paying on their $75,000 house. That is certainly true but we must realize that $75,000 will not buy as nice of a house in Marshall as it will in Tracy due to the difference in property values. Housing is still a bargain in Tracy compared to Marshall.
Do you favor changes in city staff? Is the number of city employees too few, too many, or about right?
Ferrazzano I do not favor any changes to the current city staff. The number of employees is about right and they as a whole are a dedicated group of people. City employees work long hours to make sure that the services we as a community expect are not interrupted. I have always found the employees of our city to be competent and professional.
Rettmer I think that our city staff does a remarkable job. I would foresee some additional hiring being done, what with the projects that are going to be coming along down the road. The maintenance that is currently required (i.e. the utilities department, the street department) gets stretched pretty thin at times.
Van Acker The number of city employees is about right for Tracy.
Arvizu Our city staff are working to their capacity in both the office and public works. We have actually used a significant amount of temporary workers in Public Works to make sure the work gets done. We have started doing more of the water plant work in house saving large amounts of money.
Martin I dont know enough about this question to make a responsible answer. I know a few workers, and they make a great contribution. From my perspective, I havent seen folks resting on their rakes, so to speak. Nevertheless, there should be clear performance data in the files. Im sure Ill find out more about it if the voters of Tracy decide Im worthy.
Parker At present I dont feel that more employees need to be hired with the exception of the utility department. I believe the rest of the city including the police department are adequately staffed.
Peterson I support any changes that give the taxpayer the most for their dollar. I would also support a comprehensive review of the city staff that would eliminate duplication of positions, responsibilities and eliminate waste. I also believe that every department head that has the ability to effect the citys budget, be a resident of Tracy. It just does not feel right to me to have someone spend my tax dollars, which does not contribute to the local tax base.
Stobb At present I do not favor any changes. The number of employees has not changed significantly in recent years. As employees retire, we can look at our staffing needs.
Are you satisfied with how the aquatic center reconstruction and litigation turned out?
Ferrazzano I am satisfied with the pool that we have now. I think the reconstruction was a success as anybody who went to the pool this summer will tell you. It is a fantastic facility. I was not satisfied with the long wait we had in getting it re-opened but circumstances prevented us from opening the pool sooner. It was a very long wait and I thank the people of Tracy for their patience and understanding. As for being satisfied with the outcome of the litigation, it is nearly impossible to be satisfied by going through the process we went through. Litigation by its very nature is not pleasant and few come away from the experience satisfied. We as a city did what we had to do and reached a settlement. It was difficult going through litigation and we all need to pray that we never have an experience like that again.
Rettmer Although the litigation is not completed yet I believe that the reconstruction effort went well. We have to remember that we had two years without any revenue from that facility and that there were one-time start-up costs again, to get the new pool up and running.
Van Acker No. The cost to get the pool open was too high.
Arvizu I am please with the aquatic center reconstruction work and I believe that the pool is a great asset to our community. I was disappointed that the litigation cost so much. On the other hand - specialized lawsuits do not come cheap. We have an excellent attorney with Jeff Coleman. I did do extensive work trying to contain legal fees at the local level.
Martin We definitely made a big expenditure and got burned by the construction company in the pool upgrade process. We definitely should have known that the pool was unstable before the 2x4 started sticking out of the side of the pool, and we started losing gallons of water through the cracks.
I realize a great portion of our tax levy is tied up in paying for the debacle, but that is in the past, and although I would have liked to recover more of the damages we sustained, we have to move on. We have a burden, we have to take care of it, and we have learned from it. The pool is a great community asset, and even though it had some hiccups along the way, it is in, it is nice, and I encourage everyone to buy a season pass. Our family bought a season pass and it was well worth it. The pool is amazing!
Parker Yes & No. Yes, because we have a functioning facility to generate income for the city. No, because I with others feel that a vinyl liner is not the best repair and is a temporary fix. We originally paid for a concrete and gun-nite pool which has a longer life. I feel we should have gotten enough funds to put the pool back the standards that the voters originally paid for.
Peterson One word answer: no. The aquatic center is a perfect example of good intentions gone bad. Starting from the very beginning, when the first contractor failed to meet the obligations of the contract, we should have stopped and dealt with the problem then. Once you muddy the waters with the second contractor, litigation, going deeper in debt, proves that the city does not know the difference between needs and wants. Hind sight is always 20/20, but had I been a member of the council at the time of the first problem I would have fought to stop the madness and hold the original contractor responsible.
Stobb Yes I am satisfied with the reconstructed pool that we now have. In many respects it is an improvement over the defective pool that we had to replace. It should have a longer life than the other pool would have had even if it had been built correctly.
No I am not satisfied with the result of the litigation. The financial cost to us to obtain a settlement was too great even though we were not at fault.
Should the City of Tracy invest in the development of a housing addition?
Ferrazzano Eventually we will have to invest in a housing addition. It is more a matter of when. We need to be progressive; think about the future, and a new housing development is part of that. But before we invest in a housing development we need to make sure there is a market and that we have the money to invest.
Rettmer I PERSONALLY do not feel that the City of Tracy should be in the real estate business. I know that the Planning and Zoning commission has recommended that we hire engineers to do a proposal to lay out a housing development. Unfortunately, the two sites that they have recommended would require the city to buy and then annex property into the city, which would cost us money. I dont feel that it would be appropriate at this time.
Van Acker Yes. Housing is very important.
Arvizu I am open to a new housing addition if the EDA can justify it financially and show a critical need for it. I was also interested in what Mr. Reese had to say about the number of lots available throughout the city. I would like to see his list and keep that in mind also. I am concerned if our development costs exceed the amount we recover from the sale of the lots as has happened with the Eastview addition.
Martin I think we should look at the houses on the sale block now before we think about new ones. Growth is definitely important for a thriving community, but the real estate market is going through a readjustment right now. However, because the housing demand in larger population centers is now tanking, more people are considering smaller towns with better bargains. I recently heard a retiree from the Twin Cities tell me that he had to pay just as much for a house in Marshall as he would have in Minneapolis. I asked him if he had looked at Tracy. I hope he listened.
If we can realize savings on building, land, or levy costs, we might have a good prospect for future growth. Of course, this is only true if we have the dollars to invest.
Parker Yes I do. First of all there is not enough activity from the commercial side of the market that is building in Tracy. I feel in order to keep the city more attractive for people to move here, we need to keep forward progress going. Other cities of our caliber do this and are very successful at it including making a profit for their cities in the process.
Peterson I do not believe the City has the financial resources to invest in a new housing addition. We do have the ability to make it attractive to a developer to invest in a housing addition through tax incentives and abatements. With the debt load caused by the pool litigation, necessary infrastructure repairs and rising costs the City can not spend any more at this time.
Stobb Yes I believe that we should. If a family is willing to invest the large sum of money that is needed to build a new home, we should offer them more selection and more variety than we currently have in building sites.
Some have said that if we could attract a large business to Tracy a new housing development would take care of itself. I would enthusiastically welcome any new business to Tracy. It would raise our tax revenues and employ people. However I am not convinced that it would greatly increase the number of people living in Tracy and these are the people we need to support our local businesses and pay property taxes.
When I first arrived in Tracy as a teacher we had a larger teaching staff than we currently do. Of those teachers, I recall no more than four who lived outside the city limits of Tracy. They lived in the country because their families were engaged in farming. Today we have 62 teachers and only 28 live within the city limits. I believe this trend also exists in other employee groups in town and even among our business owners. My point is that people seem more willing to commute to their jobs. Therefore we need to take advantage of the surrounding areas employment opportunities and offer affordable building sites and/or housing for those individuals who commute.
Are city residents getting good value in city services for the taxes that they pay? Why or why not?
Ferrazzano The residents of Tracy are getting good value for their money. The services that the city provides are more than adequate to meet the need of the citizens. As examples we have our own police force, fire department and ambulance and for a town our size I would say that is a good return on the tax dollars we collect.
Rettmer Yes, I believe they are. At the current time, we are updating our water mains and our water meters, our streets are cleaned and plowed in a timely fashion, we have beautiful public flower gardens, we have wonderful play equipment in our parks, we have a hard-working City Administration staff, and excellent fire and police departments.
Van Acker Yes we are getting a good value for city services.
Arvizu Absolutely! We provide full time police coverage, a great volunteer fire department, skilled public works department and a city office that is responsive to the citizens as well as providing a license bureau.
Parker Yes. I believe there are some very concerned and responsible personnel on the city council who have a good business sense and consciously do the best they can with what monies they have to work with. Some of these decisions to appropriate funds to an issue are not always in favor of everyone but are made in the best business sense for the people.
Peterson For the most part our city services do an excellent job. We have one of the best trained and equipped emergency services in the state. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Tracy Fire Department for all their hard work, and for being frugal stewards of the few tax dollars they do receive. Our Police Department and Ambulance service are second to none. I do believe there is room for improvement in the City administration however.
Stobb This is a question that each family must answer for themselves but for my family the answer is yes. Our streets are maintained and plowed in the winter. We have good police and fire protection. Our clinic and hospital can offer all of the services we currently need. Our drinking water may not be of the quality I wish it were but we have an abundant supply and our waste water leaves our home for treatment. If electricity is out, we will still have water for our homes and for fighting fires thanks to our backup generators for the city wells.
If you are an incumbent seeking re-election, what do you feel is your most important accomplishment in office? What has been your greatest disappointment? If you are not an incumbent for the office you are seeking, are you generally satisfied or dissatisfied with the performance of the present office holders? Why or why not?
Ferrazzano As Mayor, I am part of the council. There are no individual accomplishments because those accomplishments are shared with the council as a whole. No one person on the council can take credit for what the council has done collectively. As a council, we have had many accomplishments during the four years I have been Mayor, re-opening the pool after two missed seasons was an accomplishment. But for me, personally, my proudest accomplishment during my term as Mayor as been working with local veterans to get the display we now have in the Veterans Memorial Center recognizing those soldiers and sailors from the Tracy area who lost their lives in combat. They are recognized not only with their name but also a picture so that all of us can see the people from Tracy that gave so much to their country. Helping with this project was a proud and humbling experience for me. As for a disappointment I cannot honestly say I have had any as Mayor. There have been difficult and trying times like the aquatic center litigation and delays in opening but I dont think disappointed is the right term to use to describe the experience. Being the Mayor is an honor and I never once felt disappointment in holding the position during the past four years. The people of the town give you a great responsibility when they elect you Mayor and you owe it to them to not waste time with feelings of disappointment when faced with difficult issues. You need to act decisively and in the citys best interest. Being Mayor of Tracy these past four years has been a privilege and an honor that I will never forget and if the voters allow me, I want very much to be their Mayor again.
Rettmer I am currently dissatisfied with our absentee mayor. I think a mayor should be actively involved in the affairs of the city, on a day-to-day basis, not to micro-manage anything, but to get a feel for the attitude and wishes of the City we serve. We need a mayor that sits up and takes notice of council business and runs council meetings according to Roberts Rules of Order as well as letting each council member have their say.
Van Acker I am dissatisfied the performance of present office holders.
Arvizu I have always strongly advocated for keeping up the maintenance of property we already own. I have fought long and hard to maintain our hospital and clinic and I am proud of the excellent medical care given at the hospital. I am glad I was part of the decision making to have a Wellness Center. I hope it makes a difference in the well-being of our people. The aquatic center is my mixed blessing. We have a wonderful facility - but at a great cost to our community.
Parker Yes, overall I am satisfied. I do believe we need some new personnel on the council to which is healthy in respect of new ideas, perceptions and experiences. I feel it takes a lot of team work and the council has to operate as a team with all being on the same page. I am a good team player and feel with all my education and experiences I would be a good candidate for Tracys City Council.
Peterson As I stated in an earlier article, I am running for council because I was asked to by people I have a great deal of respect for. As for the performance of the present office holders, I will repeat what I said at a recent public meeting. Their intentions are noble, but I feel they have lost their way. Some have been there so long I am not sure they can look at a situation from outside the box. It appears to me that all the decisions are made before the meeting is called to order and that sends the wrong message to the public. I repeat, it appears to me, I have no intention of pointing fingers or slinging mud. I believe there needs to be more professionalism brought to the council chambers, not show after the meeting has started, but all members in their seats prior to starting the meeting. I think if youre going to take the time to publish an agenda, stick to the agenda. I also believe that the public should have time to speak at least at one meeting per month.
I would like to thank Seth Schmidt and the Headlight Herald for the opportunity to answer these questions. I would also encourage everyone to vote in the up coming election. Thank you.
Stobb I can certainly not take full credit for it but I believe the best thing that has happened for Tracy during my 3 terms happened while I was also on the Hospital Advisory Board. I am referring to the lease agreement between Tracy and Sioux Valley Hospitals. This has brought stability to our clinic and hospital and has allowed us to offer services to patients that we would not have been able to offer on our own. It shows us that sometimes to maintain services we desire we have to look at new and different ways of doing business.
My greatest disappointments would have to be our first effort at replacing our swimming pool and the lack of progress we seem to be making in replacing our water and sewer infrastructure.
EDA accepts offer on building
Murrayland Agency plans move into remodeled office
The Murrayland Agency office in Tracy will be moving to a larger building.
Last week, the Tracy Economic Development Authority accepted a $3,000 offer from Don and Doug Hansen of Currie to buy the vacant building at 130 Third Street. The buyers plan to remodel the building for the Murrayland Agency. The 130 Third St. building, which was last occupied by Stassen Photography, has been vacant for several years. The Murrayland Agency is now located across the street at 125 Third Street, between Charter Communications and the public library.
Luann Hansen, a real estate broker at Murrayland and the wife of Don Hansen, said the larger building will allow Murrayland to better serve its clients and customers. The real estate and insurance business is growing, she indicated, and needs more space. No date has been set for moving to the new location. Hansen said that remodeling work at the new location will be done before the move is made.
Robert Gervais, Tracy community development director, said that he hopes that title to the property can be transferred by Dec. 1. The EDA acquired the property in 2005 at a Lyon County delinquent real estate tax auction.
EDA seeks to sell items from vacant building
The Tracy Economic Development Authority is seeking sealed bids on 44 lots of items in the building that once housed Stassen Photography.
The EDA acquired the items last year when it purchased the 130 Third St. building at a Lyon County delinquent real estate tax auction. Sealed bids will be accepted until 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2.
The items include a variety of photography items, such as processors, and back drops. Other miscellaneous goods include a desk, sales counter, and computer.
Items can be viewed by appointment by calling Robert Gervais at 629-5540.